Gazing on Jesus!

September 23, 2019  |  Comments Off on Gazing on Jesus!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Have you found yourself staring at something or someone?  You are so mesmerized by what you see, that you cannot take your eyes off of it. Such a trance-like state happens to us more often than we think.  We are hypnotized by television, enthralled by a beautiful flower, spellbound to our favorite sport’s team and enraptured by the beauty or rugged good looks of our spouse.  

What if you viewed Jesus with the same fascination?  Now, I realize we don’t get the chance to physically view Jesus in this life.  We walk by faith and not by sight ( II Corinthians 5:7).  But that does not mean we cannot behold Him, observe Him and gaze upon His holy perfection.   As a matter of fact, I would propose that gazing upon Jesus is one of the main ways we are changed into His image (Romans 8:29).

Read these verses…

II Corinthians 3:18 – And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

Hebrews 3:1 – Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in the heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.

Hebrews 12:2 – Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

What, then, does it mean to behold the glory of the Lord?  How can we consider Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on Him?  Here are a few important thoughts to ponder. 

1. Read the Gospels!

Without a doubt the principal teachings about Jesus and by Jesus are found in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).  Although each present the story of Jesus from a different viewpoint, they all share vital information to help you understand His person, His purpose, His preaching and His passion.  Let me challenge you to read through the Gospels several times a year.  They will help you to better know Jesus. 

2. Look for Jesus throughout the Bible.

Although the Gospels speak specifically about the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah, they are not the only books of the Bible that speak of Him.  I would submit that the entire Bible is about Jesus.  That doesn’t mean that every verse is talking about Him, but rather that He is talking through every verse.  As the Living Word, He is the Author, the central Character and the Hero of all of Scripture.  

The flood and the ark, the Passover and the Red Sea, the wilderness and the Promised Land, the exile and the Return, the Temple, the sacrifices and the many prophetic promises all point to Jesus.  He is the fulfillment of all of those things.  The next time you read the Old Testament, put on your “Jesus” glasses and ask the Holy Spirit to help you see Him.

3. Meditate on one of Jesus’ attributes.

If Jesus’ goal if for you is to be like Him, then it makes perfect sense for you to meditate upon the divine characteristics that make Him lovely, admirable, imitable and worthy of praise.  Here are a few to get you started…

  • He is gentle – Matthew 11:29; 21:5; II Corinthians 10:1
  • He is humble – Matthew 11:29; Philippians 2:5-9
  • He is patient – II Peter 3:9, 15
  • He is compassionate – Matthew 14:14; 20:34; Mark 6:36

The simple, yet profound, truth is that the more you gaze at Jesus, the more you will become like Him. Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can change you and transform you into His image. Jen Wilken, in her book Women of the Word said, “There is nothing more transformative in your life than beholding God in His Word.” 

Let me challenge you to take the time to gaze upon Jesus.  I promise He is more exquisite than a freshly opened rose.  He is more glorious than a sunrise at the beach.  He is even more beautiful than your children or grandchildren.  Look at Him!  Behold Him!  Gaze upon Him and allow His glorious image to transform you into the same image. 

Be Filled with the Spirit

August 21, 2019  |  Comments Off on Be Filled with the Spirit  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This past Sunday, the message was “The Prayer for Boldness” found in Acts 4:23-31.  From the passage, we saw that God gives us boldness as..

  • We understand and embrace His sovereignty.
  • We are filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • And as we truly believe in the power of prayer.

I wanted get a little deeper into the idea of being filled with the Spirit.  The principal command to be filled by the Holy Spirit is found in Ephesians 5:18. Paul says…

Ephesians 5:18 – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery (ruin your life), but be filled with the Spirit. 

The phrase, “To be filled with the Spirit” is found in the present tense. In other words, it is not a one time experience. Rather it is a repeated experience that should happen every day. The verse literally says, “Be being filled with the Spirit.”

Just to clarify, though, to be filled with the Spirit is not a matter of you getting more of the Holy Spirit, but rather of Him getting more of you.  It is a question of surrender, of being yielded to His control.  To be filled with the Spirit is to give up and to give in to His control. It is allowing your life to be guided and directed by God’s Word. In other words, If God says to do something, you do it.  No arguing, no rationalizing, no questions asked. 

The New Testament mentions three specific commands or qualifications for being filled with the Spirit. 

1. Don’t quench the Spirit – I Thessalonians 5:18

To “quench the Spirit” has the idea of smothering, stifling or suppressing.  It is like saying “No” to the Holy Spirit. It is when the believer prefers to have his/her own way.  To not submit but rather to do what they feel is right.  This happens when you read something in God’s Word and fail to do it. 

It’s like reading a traffic sign and failing to obey it.  You see the STOP sign, but you fail to stop.  You see the YIELD sign, but you fail to yield.  You know what the sign says, but you choose to disobey instead of obeying, 

To read a command in God’s Word and fail to obey it quenches the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  It throws cold water on the fiery embers of God’s Spirit at work in your life. The second command is…

2. Don’t grieve the Spirit – Ephesians 4:30

You grieve the Holy Spirit when you deliberately do something you know offends God. 

Imagine me leaving my dirty clothes scattered around the house when I know Vickie wants me to put them in the dirty clothes hamper. I know that my untidiness offends her, but I choose to deliberately act against her wishes.  

Whenever we consciously and intentionally disobey one of God commands, we grieve the Holy Spirit of God.  Such an action quashes the working of God’s Spirit in your life, 

3. Walk by the Spirit – Galatians 5:16  

To walk by the Spirit means to live in communion with Him. To recognize His continual presence in your life.  To not ignore Him.  

Remember, the Holy Spirit is a person.  Your body is His home.  He is with you all the time.  It’s like having the wisest, most powerful, most patient and most loving assistant with you all the time. Igt is to you benefit to yield to Him, to surrender to Him, and to allow Him to help you live, love and serve in a way that brings honor to Jesus. 

The Holy Spirit desires to guide your life.  Surrender to His control.  It will be the very best decision you make today. 

Church United: Uniting the Church for Mission

November 20, 2017  |  Comments Off on Church United: Uniting the Church for Mission  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

It was a blessing to have Edwin Copeland, the Executive Director of Church United, at Hollywood Community Church yesterday. His message about transformative unity was right on point.  If you didn’t hear it, you can find it here http://site.ourhcc.org/sermons/

The simple truth is that churches have ministered independent of each other far too long.   Sadly, our distinctions, our divisions and our disagreements have hindered the growth of the body of Christ.   HCC has ministered in Hollywood for more than 60 years and we are farther behind in evangelizing our city today than we were 60 years ago. How tragic!

So recently, we began to ask several convicting questions, “What would happen if we started collaborating with other churches for the sake of mission?” Could we significantly increase the number of evangelical believers in Broward County? Could collaborating with other churches for the sake of the gospel actually make a difference for the cause of Christ?  We believe the answer to those questions is a resounding, “YES!”

The message stirred some tremendous questions and some healthy discussion.  So, let me clarify what uniting together for mission means. Here are a few important points…

1.We are not collaborating with those who reject the Gospel.

Some fear that an invitation to collaborate opens the door for cults to participate. I assure you that there are no groups involved who deny the deity of Christ, the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross and the core of the Gospel message. Church United is a Gospel-driven movement.

2. It doesn’t mean that we lose our doctrinal distinctions.

Others have worried that cooperating with different churches and denominations would cause us to weaken our theological position. That simply is not the case. HCC has not and will not change its core beliefs.   The purpose of Church United is not to break down doctrinal distinctions, but rather to not allow such differences to hinder the growth of God’s Kingdom.

3.We must unite together for the sake of the Gospel

Quite frankly, the unbelieving world does not grasp the things that divide us.  They don’t understand the difference between Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Community Churches. They cannot comprehend the theological dissimilarity between conversion baptism and infant baptism.   They could care less if we are cessationists or continuists. All they know is that there are a bunch of people who call themselves Christians who cannot get along.  Sadly, we are often the biggest obstacle to evangelism. Why would an unbeliever want to embrace a Gospel of disagreement and division? The simple truth is they don’t. Genuine love for one another is the only thing that will point them to Jesus.

4.We must unite together for Jesus

 Edwin Copeland articulated this point so clearly in yesterday’s message.  In John 17, just a few hours before His death, Jesus pleaded with the Father for unity among believers. He based his plea for unity on several foundational truths…

  • The unity of the Trinity (v. 21) – Obviously, there is no division between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are fully and intrinsically united.
  • The glory of the Son (v. 22) – Disunity is inglorious, but genuine unity is glorious.   When believers unite together Jesus is glorified.
  • The identity of the Savior (v. 23) – Jesus says that believers uniting together actually proves the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer of the world.

5.We must unite together for mission

We can accomplish so much together! This last year has clearly proven that point. Whether it was paying of the medical bills of the FLL shooting victims or the rebuilding of communities in Pompano, Dania Beach and Fort Lauderdale, together we have been able to demonstrate to Broward County that the Church of Jesus Christ loves them and loves each other.

The simple truth is that Jesus’ plea must be our passion! If unity was important to Him, it must be imperative to us.   I truly believe that by uniting together for the sake of the Gospel we will experience the blessing and the revival for which we have longed and prayed.

Let’s Impact Our Community!

August 28, 2017  |  Comments Off on Let’s Impact Our Community!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Several years ago the leaders of our church decided to change its name to Hollywood Community Church. Although that name isn’t necessarily compelling or eye popping, it does perfectly demonstrate who we are and what God has called us to do. At HCC we have a tremendous passion for the Gospel to make a difference in our city. That passion drives us to look for ways to serve those who live in our surrounding neighborhoods. Quite frankly, we do not always do a good job, but our name reminds us every day of our purpose. Of course, every church does not need to be called a community church, but every church should be impacting its community.

In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus commands the Church (Big “C”) to be salt and light. Those are not just clever metaphors. They should be functional realities. Both salt and light effect change. Salt purifies, sanitizes and preserves life, while light penetrates the darkness. What a beautiful illustration of what we have been called to do.

Notice that our light shines brightly, not just through the message that we preach, but also through the works that we do (v. 16). No doubt the proclamation of the Gospel is necessary, powerful and life changing, but the “good works” of the Gospel are what transforms communities.

There is a two-fold blessing for the church that serves its community. First of all, your community service will make a difference! As we mentioned, you will be salt and light. You will effect change.   At HCC, we love to give groceries to “food deprived” families. We get an enormous blessing out of finding a home for a homeless single mom or paying a bill for a veteran in a financial crisis. Those are huge wins for us.

Apart from the impact community service makes in the lives of your neighbors, there is a second blessing. Not only will your community be blessed, but your family and your church family will be impacted as well. Community service does not just help others; it helps you too! Here are a few internal rewards that you and your church will reap through community service.

  • Community service will unify the church.  It is amazing how petty problems, ministerial disagreements and personality conflicts disappear when you take your focus off of yourself and place it on the needs of others.   A church that is not looking outward will look inward. A congregation that is not broken by the needs of its neighbors will soon be bound by the grumbling of its members.
  • Community service will create a culture of generosity.   One of the greatest ways to promote generosity among your people is for them to hear, see and feel the brokenness of their community.   Remind them that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Challenge them with the thought that God has blessed them not to store up but to share with others.
  • Community service will result in evangelism opportunities. As you meet the physical needs of your community, they will turn to you with their spiritual needs.  We know that our neighbors need Jesus more than anything else, but often their immediate needs blind them from their spiritual need. Although many in our community are not interested in the Gospel, I am often astounded at how a kind word, a caring action or a small gift can soften a hard heart.

I would challenge you to look for ways to be missionally involved in your community.   As I mentioned, that looks different for every every individual. Here are some ways that you can represent Jesus and HCC in our community:  You can minister with Open Heart Food Pantry.  You can be a mentor at Hollywood Christian School or another area school.  Reach out to the homeless, veterans, widows or single moms in our city.   If you are not sure where to begin, just look for opportunities.  What are the needs of your area? Who is in desperate need of compassion, assistance and the Gospel? Investigate, pray, and connect with your neighbors. Allow God to let your light shine so bright that your community will see your good works and glorify you Father in heaven.

 

 

 

Back To School Advice from Proverbs

August 15, 2017  |  Comments Off on Back To School Advice from Proverbs  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Today is the first day of 2017/18 school year at Hollywood Christian School. It is always exciting to see the students return.   Moms and dads are in the hallways taking their children’s pictures with teachers. The students are neatly dressed in their new school uniforms. Friends are reuniting after their summer vacations. And the school staff is urgently running from place to place making sure that everything is ready to go. What an exciting day!

The first day of school always makes me think of the book of Proverbs. It might be because the words “instruction,” “knowledge,” and “wisdom” are repeatedly found throughout the book. It could also be that the tone of the book reminds me of a teacher instructing a student.   The truth of the matter is that Proverbs is filled with wise advice for everyone – the parent, the student and the teacher. Here are a few examples of Solomon’s sage advice…

  1. Knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord

That is the foundational premise of Proverbs. Solomon makes that assertion repeatedly throughout the first few chapters.

1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

 1:29 – Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.

It is entirely possible to be academically intelligent, but spiritually illiterate. It is conceivable for one to be a genius in knowledge but a fool in life.   How is that possible? Academic knowledge prepares the brain, but it is godly wisdom that prepares the heart.  It is the fear of the Lord that ties knowledge and wisdom together. When we recognize our need for God and give Him the place that He alone deserves, our knowledge is transformed into wisdom.

Parents, the best thing that you can do for your children this school year is to teach them to fear God. Model for them what it means to put God first in your life.

  1. Integrity is your most valuable possession

 Although you will probably work years to pay off your house, your car or even your boat, none of those things are your most precious commodity.   Your most valuable asset is your integrity.   Integrity is a complex word that is defined as “to be complete; to be morally honest; or to have a sincere heart.” Quite frankly, you either have integrity or you don’t have integrity. If you have it, it is very easy to lose and if you lose it, it is very hard to get back.   That is why Solomon warns you to guard it with your life.

10:9 – Whoever walks in integrity walks securely…

 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

  1. God blesses generosity

11:24 – One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.

Solomon makes reference to an irrefutable spiritual law – Generosity pleases God while selfishness displeases Him. He gives to us so that we can give to others. God in His sovereignty has a way of taking what we give to others and giving it back to us.

These are just a few of the many nuggets that are found in Solomon’s book of wisdom. Let me encourage you to spend time in this profound book. Make yourself a student of God’s knowledge. I guarantee that you will reap the relational and the spiritual rewards.

Let’s Hit The Streets!

October 31, 2016  |  Comments Off on Let’s Hit The Streets!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This past Sunday, Pastor David Rosa of Cruciform Church preached a tremendous message on prayer from Hebrews 4:15, 16 titled, “What If Everyone Prayed?” If you weren’t able to attend, you can listen to the message here:  http://www.ourhcc/sermons

This Saturday we would like to put his message into action as we host our first HCC Prayer Walk.  Now, I am sure that Prayer Walking is new to many of you, so let me answer a few questions you may have.

  • What is a Prayer walk?prayerwalk

Prayer walking is simply taking prayer to the streets.  As you walk through the neighborhoods surrounding HCC, you pray for each home that you pass.   The purpose is not to evangelize or engage in conversation, but to pray.   The goal is not to draw attention to yourself or what you are doing, but to inconspicuously pray.

  • Why Prayer Walk?

You might ask, “wouldn’t it be easier to stay inside the church building and pray for our community?” Although it may be easier, it is not as effective. Prayer walking gives you insight into our community. Prayer walking allows you to pray with more clarity and purpose.   You pray in the very places where you expect God to bring forth His answers.

  • What do you pray for?

We will ask you to pray for God’s blessings upon each household. You should pray for them to be receptive to the Gospel, to have a personal relationship with Jesus or anything else that the Holy Spirit lays on your heart. Be assured that we will give you a prayer guide with certain suggestions as to what you should pray.

  • What if I am unable to walk the streets?

For those unable to walk longer distances, we will place prayer teams into the classrooms of Hollywood Christian School. HCS is a ministry of Hollywood Community Church. It exists to bring students into a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of our students and their families, though, do not know Jesus. We must pray for their salvation and spiritual growth!

Additionally, there will be a group that will stay and pray for each of our missionaries.   We will have specific and up to date requests from many of our missionaries.

  • Can I Prayer Walk in my neighborhood?

Absolutely! Our goal is to get our families regularly prayer walking through their own neighborhoods. This Saturday, though, we want to join together and pray for those neighborhoods closest to the Church.   So, we ask you to join us at HCC and let’s pray together.

  • Where? When? How long?

We will meet this Saturday morning at 10:00 am in the Church Auditorium. We will meet together for a few brief minutes in order to pair up into teams of 2-3, give final instructions and pray together. We plan to be done around 11:30 am.

  • How can I prepare for this Prayer Walk?

The best way to prepare is to pray.   Yes, we want to pray for our Prayer Walk.   Pray that your heart will be right with God (Psalm 66:18). Pray for courage to walk the neighborhoods and pray (II Timothy 1:7). Pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as He guides you in praying for the homes along your walk (Romans 8:26).

Finally, let me encourage you to come with a sense of expectation. Remember that Jesus has already granted us access to God’s throne of grace. We can pray with confidence believing that He hears and answers our prayers. See you on Saturday!

Why Are Life Groups Important?

September 1, 2016  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

An Explanation of the Changes to the HCC By Laws and Statement of Faith

August 16, 2016  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This past Sunday we distributed the changes to the By Laws and Statement of Faith that have been recommended by the Elders and Deacons. Below you will find a more detailed explanation as to why these changes have been proposed. Please take a moment to read this letter, then read the changes that have been proposed.

  1. Changes to the By Laws

There are primarily two changes that we are recommending to the By Laws.

  • The addition of Hollywood Christian School as a ministry of Hollywood Community Church

Although Hollywood Christian School has been a part of the ministry of Hollywood Community Church for more than 50 years, there was no mention of the School in our By Laws. As we went through our recent accreditation, the Accreditation Committee of FACCS stipulated that the By Laws had to state that Hollywood Christian School was a ministry of Hollywood Community Church. Secondly, the Elder Board was designated as the School Board for Hollywood Christian School. This guarantees that the school will have the same vision and direction as Hollywood Community Church.

  • We continue to transition the authority of the church away from the Senior Pastor, to the Elder Board.

This transition is based on our biblical understanding of leadership. Never in the New Testament do we find the authority of the church placed in the hands of one individual. Rather, we find the church being lead by a plurality of leaders, namely the elders.

Acts 14:23 – And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Acts 20:17 – Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.

Titus 1:5 – That is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.

This transition does not eliminate the position of Senior Pastor, it just limits his authority and makes him more accountable to the Elder Board. As an Elder, the Senior Pastor serves as the Chairman of the Elder Board. His responsibility is to give spiritual direction. He is considered a leader among equals.

  1. Changes to the Statement of Faith

Admittedly, any changes to the church’s Statement of Faith is a cause for concern and diligence. Yet, I want to assure you that we are not changing what we believe. Although there appear to be many changes to the Statement of Faith (notice the sections in yellow and red), the majority of them are because of two reasons.

  • We desire to simplify and clarify language.

The great majority of the Statement of Faith document was written more than 40 years ago.   Although our doctrinal position has not changed, the way that words are communicated has changed. Our desire is to simplify the language in a way that makes it easy, so that both new and mature believers can understand it.

For example, look at section eleven on the Church. The paragraph that is highlighted in red is what we are recommending to remove. That whole paragraph is one long sentence. Quite frankly, I run out of breath before I can finish reading it :-). As you can tell, we simplified the statement, making it easier to read and easier to understand.

Let me also add that we have taken the majority of the additions from the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which is the accepted doctrinal position of Southern Baptists in the USA.   It is important to realize that we are not writing or adding anything bizarre that we have come up with. Rather, it is the universal position of Conservative Southern Baptists.

  • We desire to amplify our position of last things (Eschatology).

You will notice that we removed much of section 14, the doctrine of Last Things.   You may be thinking, how does removing so much, amplify it? Historically, our church has taken a very strict view of God’s plan for the future. Technically, we have been dispensational, pre-tribulational and pre-millennial.  Additionally, we have made our views on eschatology a point of separation. In other words, you had to agree with us in order to be a member of Hollywood Community Church.

Today, our leaders recognize that evangelical Christians have many views on the future. None of them can be proven with any certainty from Scripture. Therefore, we have pulled back or amplified our explanation of God’s future events stating what we know for sure…

  • We know that Jesus Christ is going to physically return to earth.
  • We know that Jesus will judge all men in righteousness.
  • We know that the unsaved will be eternally punished in hell.
  • We know that the believers will be eternally rewarded in heaven.
  • We know that Jesus will reign for all of eternity future.

The timing and the specifics of how those things are carried out are up for debate. We have determined to state what we know for sure and to not emphasize that which is uncertain.

I trust that this answers any questions that you may have. Please feel free to communicate any questions or concerns with any of the leaders of HCC. We gladly look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions you may have.

We will officially vote on these changes on Sunday, August 28th. Please be in prayer for God’s perfect will to be accomplished. God is at work at Hollywood Community Church. I can’t wait to see what He has for us in the future.

Redeemed!

December 9, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

You are redeemed! You have been rescued from destruction, purchased from slavery and freed from bondage. What a truly amazing thought! Yet, many believers are unfamiliar with what that truth exactly means. We know the information; we just don’t understand the implications. How, then, does the reality of our redemption impact our lives? What effect does it have upon our future?   Let’s try to answer those questions.

Although only found a few times in the New Testament, “redeem” is one of the Bible’s most beautiful words. Notice several verses in which the word is found.

Psalm 107:2 – Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.

Luke 1:68 – Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people. 

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

I Peter 1:18 – Knowing that you were ransomed (redeemed) from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The New Testament term “exagorazo” means the purchasing of a slave with a view to his freedom (Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 263). What a beautiful description of that which Jesus accomplished for us. As sinners, we were enslaved to wickedness and chained to un-righteousness, Jesus went to the “marketplace” of this world seeking to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). When He saw us He had compassion on us, bought us (I Cor. 6:20), and then set us free (Galatians 5:1).  That is why Peter states “…we have been ransomed not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…”

Your rescue by Jesus accomplished three importance results.

  1. You were rescued from the penalty of sin.

By paying the purchase price for our sins, Jesus paid the price for our sins and completely canceled our debt.   As a believer, you are now free from any guilt or condemnation.

Colossians 2:14 – By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Romans 8:1 -There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

  1. You were rescued from the power of sin

In other words, because of Christ’s redemptive work sin no longer has any power over you. You are liberated from its death grip and freed to live righteously.

Romans 6:17, 18 – But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

I Corinthians 15:56, 57 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. You will be rescued from the presence of sin

For the redeemed, there is coming a day in which sin will be permanently defeated and abolished.   There will be no more temptation, no more enticement to evil, no more spiritual battles, no more guilt, and no more shame. All sin and death will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Titus 2:13, 14 – Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.

Yes, you are redeemed!   Your redemption has wonderful consequences, not only in this life, but also in the life to come. That certainly gives us a reason to cry out in praise.

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed through His infinite mercy,

His child and forever I am.

Faith and Obedience

September 22, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

In Sunday’s message we observed how Peter, Andrew, James and John responded immediately to the Lord’s command to follow Him. Their obedience was instantaneous and without hesitation. We, thus, concluded that true faith results in obedience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.” Is that true, though?

Some would argue that to make obedience a definitive result of faith muddies the waters of salvation by grace alone.   They would insist repentance is a change of mind about Christ and not necessarily a change of mind about sin. A Christian may fall into a state of lifelong carnality and never practice consistent obedience to the commands of Christ. (So Great Salvation, Charles Ryrie, Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1989) I strongly disagree with such assertions. To divorce obedience from faith is to cheapen the value of the gospel. Sadly, such a divorce is clearly seen in today’s Christian culture, where many claim to be followers of Jesus Christ but their life has never changed.  Here are a few thoughts:

First, we must realize that to join faith and obedience does not change the intrinsic nature of the Gospel. Salvation is still a total work of God. Man’s effort is not involved. Man can do nothing to save himself. God is both the Author and the Completer of our salvation.

Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not because of the works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:8 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Secondly, real faith does produce a changed life.   There is no way a person can be indwelt by the omnipotent power of God and their life not be different. Let me quickly add, though, that such a transformation is not instantaneous and not without great struggle.  Even Paul testified about the inner sanctificational struggle he faced (Romans 7:13-25). Nevertheless, in Christ the old way of living, acting and thinking gradually passes away and all things do become new (II Corinthians 5:17). God changes us from the inside out.

Thirdly, such an expectation of a changed life does not come from an external command but from a changed heart. It is not a list of legalistic rules that we follow, but the inner conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon stated, “The obedience of faith springs from a principle within and not a compulsion from without.”

One author compared such a response to the obedience of a child contrasted to the compliance of a slave. A slave obeys out of mere obligation. His submission is demanded and thus enforced. A child on the other hand, obeys out of love, loyalty and respect for his or her parent. In the same way, as followers of Christ we obey with a cheerful and a willing heart.

John 14:15 – If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Finally, obedience should never be used as a litmus test of one’s conversion. During the Great Awakening, (a revival that was led by the powerful preaching of Jonathon Edwards and George Whitfield), a believer’s works became the supreme test of one’s faith. Those who did not meet religious expectations were ruled unconverted. Works rather than faith became the basis for salvation. That is a dangerous position to take!

We must always remember that the joining of faith and works is a personal issue.   It is a question of individual examination and not congregational condemnation. The Bible never encourages us to examine the validity of another’s salvation. We are, though, to examine our own.

II Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

So let me ask, has your faith resulted in your obedience to the Lord? Do you more often find yourself in a state of willful submission or willful rebellion? Once again, Spurgeon said, “Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes.” May our faith in Jesus Christ propel us to joyfully obey Him!